Danny Doucette has just finished killing his parents—carving out their hearts and eyeballs and eating them for dinner and cooking them rotisserie-style over a fire. Their bodies are bagged up behind him and their heads are in a black backpack he stole from a supply store when he was fourteen—killing the clerk and six people to get away. The hearts are blood red and the eyes an off-white when he takes them off the rotisserie and bites into them. Bitter, Danny thinks, like everything else in Dark City. He consumes the hearts and eyes then stands, looking into the eternal night—the stars nonexistent and the full moon shining brightly.
He thinks back to the day his parents first beat him when he was five, the surprise and fear he felt when that first sting of his father’s whip across his face, jolting him from a dreamless sleep. They dragged him from bed and beat him like a savage animal every step of the way as they directed him to their new torture room. Danny remembers the pain he felt, the hot, stinging tears that fell from his eyes, the refreshing yet terrifying coolness of the water when they first waterboarded him. Holding his head under for a full two minutes and let him up right before he passed out. For the rest of that first night, his parents took turns beating him relentlessly, calling him all sort of names like Worthless, Black Devil, Charcoal Demon, Disgrace.
Danny looks at the body bags that lay on the cold, hard ground and scowls. His eyes a deep, obsidian black in the moonlight. Guess your insults weren’t entirely untrue, were they? Danny thinks and spits on the ground. He takes a deep breath and thinks back to another time when he was six. His parents pulled him out of bed by his legs and unleashed rabid dogs on him. They laughed as he ran for his life and got trapped in one of their three bedrooms and closed the doors and locked them, leaving Danny to fend for himself. Danny distinctly remembers his father saying, “if you wanna live, Black Devil, kill the dogs!” His parents called him Danny up until age five, after that it was either Black Devil or Charcoal Demon.
Danny looks at the body bags and the backpack with their heads and feels nothing. No pain, no loss, no remorse, no regret. Only the soft breeze in the night flowing through his hair and washing over his skin, the warmth from the fire allowing the blood to flow more easily, the emptiness in his heart and the temporary relief that comes from killing the constant threat to your survival. He grabs and slings the backpack over his bag and grabs the body bags–dragging them in a careless and rough fashion.
“Off to the courts, then,” Danny says.
“So,” The registrar of the Dark Court says, “you finally killed your parents.”
“Let’s have a look at the bodies then,” the registrar says when Danny slings them on the examination tables, “where are the heads?”
Danny takes off the backpack and opens it to show him.
“Ah,” the registrar types into his database, “decapitation, carved out hearts and removed eyeballs from sockets . . .” he asks in mid-type, “did you eat them?”
“Hearts and eyeballs were eaten,” the registrar continues typing and a little ping! comes from the computer, the printer starts rattling and a fresh, sizzling sheet of paper pops out.
“Alright,” the registrar reads off, “Danny Doucette, age eighteen, heir to Doucette Manor and shipping company, your parents—Marcus and Lisa Doucette—were law-abiding citizens, tortured you every single day, broke your legs, arms, toes, fingers and other sensitive ligaments eliminating weaknesses of any kind and yadda-yadda-yadda.” He doesn’t bother going through the rest and simply says, “Alright, everything is in order.”
The registrar types something else into the computer, “Alright, Danny boy, where do you want your parents’ final resting place to be?”
“Dumped in the Dark Sea,” Danny says, “in the abyss.”
“They must’ve put you through it for you to do them that cold,” The registrar laughs, “I like it. Okay, two bodies for the Dark Sea in the abyss . . .” He types rapidly and another ping! comes from the dusty, blood-spattered printer. “Alright, just push the bodies through and they’ll be disposed of as you requested, the heads too.”
Danny goes to take the heads out when the registrar snaps his fingers and says, “no, no, just put the bag on top of one of the bodies and we’ll sort it out.”
Danny does so, throwing it carelessly.
They wait in silence until the bodies disappear and they hear the thudding and banging the bodies make on the way down the disposal. The registrar puts a finger up in a wait-for-it gesture and keeps it there until a loud, splashing sound emanates from the disposal unit. The registrar nods.
“Alright, now that’s done.” He types on his computer and the printer rattles and another fresh, sizzling piece of paper pops out. The registrar pulls it out and hands it to Danny, he takes it.
“That paper there is the Death Certificate and your passage out of the city,” he starts, “it has the time, date, and place of execution as well as the style. It also has the Dark Road you are to take out of the city and—since you killed your parents in such a gruesome and nightmarish manner—you’ve earned the right to travel down the darkest road, Dark Road Seven.
Danny examines the certificate and from front to back.
“On the back of the certificate, you’ll find the route you’ll be taking toward Dark Road Seven—which will be through the Black Forest, the perfect preamble for someone of your murderous spirit.” The registrar finishes, “any questions?”
“Alright then, onto the final step,” The registrar types into his computer then pauses, “what would you like your new name to be?”
Danny looks at him with a confused expression.
“Ah, they didn’t tell you.” The registrar says, “When one gets assigned to Dark Road Seven, they forfeit their entire lives, leaving behind all assets, possessions, friends, family, and identity. Because you’ve demonstrated the aptitude for survival, it has been determined by the Dark Lords that you need nothing from this city to survive in the world.”
Danny considers this then nods.
“A quick study,” the registrar smiles sinisterly, “that’ll serve you well.” he continues, “now, your new name?”
Danny thinks for a minute then comes up with the perfect name to reflect who he is, something dark and mysterious that can only be from Dark City, something with a tinge of suaveness to it, “Drake,” Danny says, “Drake Devereaux.”
“Ooooh,” The registrar smiles while he types into his computer, “Dark and mysterious.” He finishes, “I like your style, lad,” he nods approvingly, “I like your style.”
“Alright, let’s go over everything, shall we?” The registrar begins, “Danny Doucette no longer exists, and you are no longer allowed back in Dark City, returning will only result in death and torture—in that order. You may use the fact you’re from Dark City to build any legend, myth, and reputation you like and to boast or brag as you wish. You will leave with nothing but the clothes on your back—never to return—by way of The Black Forest and Dark Road Seven.”
The registrar looks Danny—now Drake—in the eyes one last time, ensuring he understands everything being said to him and says, “perilous travels, Drake Devereaux.”
Drake folds up the Death Certificate/map and puts it in his pocket then turns and heads out the Dark Court. He gets as far as the door when the registrar says, “and one more thing,” Drake looks back, “leave the Death Certificate at the gate of Dark Road Seven, you won’t need it at that point.
Drake nods and leaves the court, heading toward The Black Forest.
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